by Michael Bluejay
February 2010 • Updated April 2011
Aesthetic Realists say their critics are liars. In
fact they have a whole website called Countering
the Lies. (Hypocritically, that site contains their own
mistruths.) But here's a laundry list of reasons why it's
hard to trust what an Aesthetic Realist says about their
1. They're out of their friggin' minds.
Don't take my word for it, listen to what they
have to say themselves. (Emphasis added.)
"Eli Siegel [AR's
founder] was the greatest man in the history of
the world." (from their
Times ad, and their Spring
2008 presentation at a NYC library)
▶ Play the audio
"When we see how much
[Siegel] was able to do without recognition or
acclaim, imagine what he might have done if he had had
them! He thought, for example, if he had been able to
work with doctors, he could have found the cause of
cancer." (introduction to
AR's Self ond World book, p. xi)
"I believe Self and
World is the greatest book ever to have been
written. If you think I'm saying greater than the
Bible or Shakespeare -- yes, I am."
(from the intro to that
"In keeping Aesthetic Realism—in
all its grandeur, all its kindness—from you, the
American press has committed a crime against
humanity as much as if it deliberately kept
from starving people the news that the food they
needed was available for them."
(from their NY
"I accuse the American press
of preferring the continuing pain of children and
even death to being honest about Aesthetic
Realism." (Robert Murphy on
"It sounds strange, in a way,
but I think I love the opposites of Sameness and
Difference as much as I love any person."
(from their 1971 book about their
for homosexuality, p.
"Homosexuality, in simple
terms, is bad aesthetics."
(their 1971 book about their
for homosexuality, p.
And here's how an arts writer for The Virginian-Pilot described her encounter with an Aesthetic Realist:
"A woman with a curious button on
her chest sat down beside us. Her button read: 'Victim of the
Press.' She looked safe enough to ask questions. Some ruse. As
she spoke of her cause, she began to emerge as, well, deranged."
2. They lie their faces off.
Aesthetic Realists claim they never promoted
a cure for being gay. But they did, and it's
They also say that while people did change from
being gay by studying AR, they never said people
should change. But quotes like these suggest
"We say what history
will say: the American press has blood on its hands,
has caused misery and death, because for years it has
withheld the news that men and women have changed from
homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism."
(from their NY
An entire chapter of AR's 1986 book on their gay
cure is devoted to the idea of homosexuality being
wrong. On its very first page it says,
"Eli Siegel stated the main reason
homosexuality is not ethical, and [he] related
homosexuality to all other ways that a man has been
against the outside world. He explained, 'There is only
one thing that is immoral in the world: liking oneself
too much and the outside world too
As for AR's claim that they don't see homosexuality
as a mental illness, this one is easy: Their founder,
Eli Siegel, wrote, "All
homosexuality arises from contempt of the world, not
liking it sufficiently." AR also believes that
"contempt causes insanity". (It was the
title of the preface to their founder's book Self
and World (which is basically their Bible), and
it as a headline of their monthly newsletter.) So if
homosexuality is a form of contempt, and contempt causes
insanity...you do the math. It's painfully obvious how AR
views gay people.
AR people say that Eli Siegel didn't kill
himself. But he did, and we know this because enough
former members have come forward and spilled
the beans. (And also because with the spotlight that
this website has shone on the AR people about this,
they've finally begrudgingly
alluded to Siegel's suicide.)
AR folks claim they've never been secretive about
how Siegel died:
misrepresentation I want to refute here is the manner
in which those attempting to discredit Eli Siegel have
portrayed his death.... The events that led to his
dying have long been knowledge in the public realm,
because Ellen Reiss has described them, often in
detail, in the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism
to Be Known at least once every year since
1987! (AR website)
she hasn't. No such writing exists. I challenged them
years ago to provide this alleged admission of Siegel's
suicide from the AR journal, but they can't, because
they've never owned up to it.
A favorite falsehood the AR people like to tell is
that I was only 2 or 3 years old when I was involved with
Aesthetic Realism. In fact, my involvement didn't end
completely until around high school. The picture at right
shows me at age 12, dutifully wearing my AR "Victim of
the Press" button. That same summer I also attended
multiple presentations and classes at the Aesthetic
Realism Foundation, and had the dreaded AR
Do you wonder how AR can claim they didn't
have a gay cure when they published two books, produced
one film, took out several ads in major newspapers, and
held hundreds of counseling sessions on the subject?
Simple: They never used the word "cure". A cure is
exactly what they described, and it's a word used by
others who have written about their efforts (including
the New York Times and SoHo News Weekly), but the AR
people tiptoed around that word themselves. So they're
claiming "We never said we had a cure for homosexuality!"
simply because they never used the word cure
They do this with everything. They "refute" a former
member's charge that members don't get to take vacations
by giving examples of recent vacations -- without
mentioning that vacations were allowed only
recently and only specifically so they could
claim that they'd taken some. Ditto with being in contact
with family members. It's a relatively new phenomenon,
but they don't mention that bit. Or they talk about the
people at the lower levels in the organization, who don't
face as severe restrictions as those higher up -- only
they don't tell you that that's what they're talking about. In
everything they say on Countering
the Lies, there's something significant they're
4. Most of them eventually recant what they're
Most people who have ever been Aesthetic
Realism members have eventually snapped out of it and
left. So it's really kind of hard to take what the
current members say seriously, when over the years
countless others who said the exact same kinds of
things, and with just as much fervor, later
left the group and recanted their statements. When so
many former members say they were wrong, why should we
believe what the current members are saying?
5. They won't stand behind what they say.
I saved the best for last: I've had an
open offer to debate the Aesthetic Realists, any time,
anywhere, but they won't even acknowledge that
offer, much less accept it. Between them and me, I'm the
only one willing to stand behind what he says. The AR
people want to safely hide behind the cover of the
Internet without having their distortions held up to
public scrutiny. They won't defend their words publicly.
And when the Aesthetic Realists won't stand behind
what they say, why should anyone take what they have to
AR and Homosexuality The AR group used to try to "cure" people of being gay. They stopped that in 1990 because high-profile success cases kept deciding they were gay after all and leaving. AR has never said their gay-changing attempts were wrong.
AR's founder killed himself AR's founder Eli Siegel killed himself, but the AR people have been trying to hide that fact. They can't hide any more, since enough former students have come forward to confirm the truth.
Lies Aesthetic Realists tell They say they never saw homosexuality as something to cure. They say the leader didn't kill himself. They say my family left the group when I was an infant. These and more are debunked here.
advertisment The AR people spent a third of a million dollars
for a double-page ad in the NY Times to tell the world that the
press' refusal to cover AR is just as wrong as letting hungry people
starve to death.
Ad for the gay
cure AR bought huge ads in major newspapers to trumpet
their ability to "fix" gays.
letters from AR people When a theater critic casually dissed Aesthetic
Realism in New York magazine, the AR people responded with hundreds
of angry letters, calling the article "a crime against humanity".
meeting The AR people blunderingly made a tape recording
of a secret meeting they had, where they lambasted a member who had
supposedly been "cured" of his gayness, but then found to still be
cruising for gay sex. Their screeching hostility towards him is matched
only by their fear that the secret will get out.
consultation For the first time the public can see what really
happens in an Aesthetic Realism "consultation" (thanks to a former
member sharing his tape with us). In the session the AR counselors
tried to help the member not be gay, explaining that the path to
ex-gayness was to express deep gratitude to AR and its founder.
Actual AR lesson
I had a lesson with the cult leader, Eli Siegel, when I was two years
old, which, like everything else, they made a tape of. The highlight is
Siegel taunting me with "Cry some more, Michael, cry some more!"
Ad in the Village Voice from 1962 The AR folks try to deny that they're a cult in this ancient ad -- showing that people were calling them a cult as far back as 1962!
took his consultation tape. Describes how the AR people
kept his consultation tape with his most intimate thoughts on it, and
told him he couldn't study any more unless he incorporated AR more
radically into his life.
all the criticism. A former member from 1971-80,
confirms that AR students don't see their families, are discouraged
from attending college, and shun other members. He also offers that he
was mistaken when he was involved about thinking that AR had changed
him from homosexuality.
Thinking of leaving AR? If you're thinking of leaving the group, you're not alone. Let's face it: Most people who have ever studied AR have left -- and not come back. There's got to be a reason for that. Curious about what they figured out? Worried about the fallout if you do decide to leave? Here's everything you need to know.
Recovering from your AR experience. People who leave cults often need special therapy to cope with what they went through. Whether you decide to seek counseling or choose to go it alone, here's what you need to know.
Media Reports NY Mag called AR "a cult of messianic nothingness" and Harper's referred to them as "the Moonies of poetry". We've got reprints of articles, plus some help for journalists researching AR. (And here are shortcuts to the landmark articles in New York Native, the NY Post and Jewish Times.)
To get the world to realize that Eli Siegel was the greatest person who ever lived, and that Aesthetic Realism is the most important knowledge, ever.
The key to all social ills is for people to learn to like the world. Having contempt for the world leads to unhappiness and even insanity. (Their slogan is "Contempt causes insanity".) For example, homosexuality is a form of insanity caused by not liking the world sufficiently.
Also teaches that "beauty is the making one of
New York City (SoHo)
About 106 (33 teachers, 44 training to be teachers, and 29 regular students). Has failed to grow appreciably even after 70 years of existence, and is currently shrinking.
All members call themselves "students", even the leaders/teachers. Advanced members who teach others are called "consultants".
Method of study
Public seminars/lectures at their headquarters (in lower Manhattan), group classes, and
individual consultations (three consultants vs. one student).
Fanatical devotion to their leader/founder
Belief that they have the one true answer to universal happiness
Ultimate purpose is to recruit new members
Feeling that they are being persecuted
Wild, paranoid reactions to criticism
Non-communication (or at least very limited communication) with those who have left